Cicada tacos, anyone? Chef’s serving up insects — customers say they taste like shrimp

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LEESBURG, Virginia (KXAN) — As billions of Brood X cicadas are set to invade the U.S. after 17 years underground, one chef in Virginia is making the most of the noisy flying bugs.

You might know these flying insects for their noisy mating calls but you might not know just how delicious some people say they are. Or at least, that’s the hope for chef Tobias Padovano in Leesburg, Virginia, where he’s serving cicada tacos as a special-menu item at his Cocina on Market Mexican restaurant.

Reuters reports the 43-year-old chef collects the bugs in a bag and then boils them like lobsters or crabs. Then, the insects are baked, plucked (of their wings and legs) and tossed into a pan.

From here, Padovano then sautés the cicadas in onion and garlic before folding them up in a tortilla and topping off with serrano chiles, avocado and a mole sauce. The chef’s first cicado taco customer, 19-year-old Will Becker, gave the following review: “You can definitely feel a bit of the crunch. But you start to chew it, it kind of just melts in.”

Padovano says several customers have compared the taste of cicada to shrimp.

But cicadas aren’t the only insect on the menu at the restaurant — Reuters reports grasshoppers are an evergreen offering. Although that’s not entirely unheard of. Grasshoppers, like cicadas, are known for being protein-rich and low fat.

Chapulínes

In many Mexican cities, like Oaxaca, grasshoppers are a popular meal and snack: it’s as common to see them served at a restaurants as it is a sporting event, according to the Institute of Culinary Education.

“Chapulínes” (Spanish for “grasshoppers”) have been served in Mexico all the way back into the 16th Century, the institute says. During this time, they were an ordinary part of the diet for Spanish conquistadors.

While grasshoppers on their own aren’t reported to have tons of flavor, they provide protein and texture. In Oaxaca, they’re served in tacos, as bar food, and even on pizzas.

Grasshoppers — and cicadas — have also been regularly consumed in Greece, China, Africa and the Middle East.

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